‘There are dogs operating blacksmith shops and being apothecaries’: Inside the world of Animal Adventures: Gullet Cove, an RPG for pet lovers
Pawcerers and Barkbarians.
The Animal Adventures series of Dungeons & Dragons-compatible miniatures is expanding into its own complete universe with a full-blown roleplaying game, Gullet Cove. The Animal Adventures line began as a miniatures project - the first release being the Tales of Dungeons & Doggies set which was funded on Kickstarter back in 2018 and included a collection of adorable canine miniatures, along with a set of rules for players to use canine characters in Dungeons & Dragons 5E.
The Dungeons & Doggies campaign eventually raised over £370,000 on Kickstarter. Having received such a positive reception, the team expanded the series to include variations like 2019’s Tales of Cats & Catacombs - and eventually - this year’s Animal Adventures: Gullet Cove. The newest line of miniatures includes a brand new setting and hardback rulebook for the first time. In anticipation of Gullet Cove’s release we spoke with Russ Charles, the brains behind the miniatures, and Richard August, the creator of the accompanying D&D 5E-compatible rulebook, about what animal fans can expect from this newest release.
When first creating Dungeons & Doggies, Charles and August envisioned the project as an easy way for players to have canine characters work within their existing Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. The dogs in question were designed to be much like any other D&D 5E race - with traits, subraces, skills and proficiencies - so that they could be played alongside standard characters without upsetting the party balance.
The team’s creative ambitions, alongside Charles’ love for furry wordplay in characters such as the Necromeowncer (“Russ has an almost terrifying ability to come up with animal puns,” August says), meant that Animal Adventures couldn’t be restricted to a single supplement. After their successful Cats & Catacombs Kickstarter last year, Charles and August decided they didn’t want to design just another set of compatible miniatures - they wanted to create their own Dungeons & Dragons world.
This is how Gullet Cove, the team’s first entirely unique D&D setting, was born. A smugglers’ town inspired by locations such as Tortuga from the Pirates of the Carribean series, Gullet Cove is a setting that can fit into any existing 5E campaign world or offer a complete area for Dungeons & Dragons newcomers to explore. Gullet Cove has an inordinate amount of animal pirates and is entirely run by a slightly dubious council that’s in the pockets of several guilds - including a cat thieves’ guild called The Cradle.
We wanted to do something that could stand on its own four feet.
“There are dogs and cats walking in the street running errands, operating blacksmith shops and being apothecaries,” Charles says.
The team reveals that the setting includes unique architectural elements completely designed for animal use, such as a hidden system of bridges criss-crossing the rooftops for the town’s cat population to use.
Charles and August say that the setting of Gullet Cove is a perfect introduction to implementing animal characters into 5E. Not only have the rules for creating and using animal characters been polished to a high sheen in the accompanying rulebook - which will also be available on official app D&D Beyond once the supplement is released (“The D&D Beyond guys actually play a dogs campaign in the office,” Charles adds) - but Gullet Cove should also provide a comprehensive pre-built setting for players wanting a jumping-off point for their latest campaign.
Charles and August mention that previous Animal Adventures supplements had proven popular amongst younger and less experienced roleplayers because dogs and cats can seem more appealing and relatable than drow and dwarfs. Their animal characters - like Pawkus the Bobtail Barbarian and Montague the Cocker Spaniel Bard - still adhere to the traditional 5E classes but they’re given alternative archetypes that make sense to the personalities of the pets we all know and love.
One such archetype is the Way of the Striking Tail; a monk class archetype for a dog character that, according to August, “utilises a dog’s inherent harmony with nature and their friendliness” to provide access to healing spells. This archetype also happens to be unusually fast and can use that speed to knock opponents over, a design choice inspired by August’s own pet experiences: “If you’ve been around dogs you inevitably will find them buffeting your legs,” he says.
However, these dog and cat characters are intended to provide more than just a knowing nod to fellow pet owners; they’re capable of being complete characters with the ability to interact with all the other races present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Charles and August explain that the cats and dogs in the world of Animal Adventures have all experienced an awakening of sorts; something that has caused them to become sentient and able to use abilities often restricted to humanoid races.
Alongside the full ruleset, included in Animal Adventures: Gullet Cove will be newly-sculpted dog and cat miniatures with pre-built character sheets, including Roger the Staffordshire Bull Terrier fighter, who has a black patch of fur over his eye and a pattern of crossbones on his body, and Coral the cat wizard, who has a set of mice familiars that ride around on his back.
Charles mentions that there is even a group of zombie cat miniatures for players to use in their campaigns: “They’re weirdly adorable despite being undead abominations.”
Asked whether the team would ever consider creating a Dungeons & Dragons supplement for any other kind of animal, the designers suggest that things could get difficult considering their commitment to designing miniatures that stand on four legs. However, Charles teases that there could be future instalments that stray away from cats and dogs.
Animal Adventures: Gullet Cove looks to expand Charles and August’s fantasy love letter to pets - the original dog and cat miniatures were inspired by family pets and service animals that were beloved in real life - whilst providing a new entry point for beginner roleplayers and more ways for existing D&D lovers to explore the game. Plenty to keep their tails wagging for some time to come.
Animal Adventures: Gullet Cove is live on Kickstarter until February 11th.